let’s make Entebbe great again!


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Photo from: entebbe-airport.com

HEARING the lamentations of travelers to Uganda these past few weeks as they come through Entebbe International Airport is disheartening.

Especially in light of the talk we engage in about how Tourism will be Uganda’s economic savior the way it has worked for South Africa, Dubai and all those other markets with sensible tourism-fueled budgets, strategies and plans.

My first memory of the airport at Entebbe goes back to 1983 when, walking through the crowded terminal with piles of suitcases, we kept getting stopped by an ugly breed of armed men. I took serious issue with one of them when he depressed a button on the belly of my little sister’s doll that made it recite phrases designed to amuse infants her age.

The fellow was startled and turned his rifle up, then demanded that a full inspection be conducted by half the armed Company present. It was scary but we went through the steps safely and were let through while absorbing many unpleasant smells and a rancid atmosphere.

We have come a long way since then – but we haven’t gone far enough. It is difficult to explain why we should be so desperately lousy at something so obviously simple.

I honestly believe that the most basic Customer Care and Marketing people could swing the airport experience around to the advantage of the entire country within hours if given the opportunity.

If the Civil Aviation Authority people unleashed some young students in these disciplines and gave them three hours to change Entebbe for the better, I am certain they would do a better job of it than we currently endure.

At some point last year I found myself there a few hours before my scheduled flight, as usual, and ran my device batteries down. As I was way too early for access to the check-in counters, I was sequestered in the cafe on the departures level.

I was already in a bad mood because of the ridiculous prices that string of cafes charge for their annoyingly small cups of hot drinks and pitifully limited range of weakly-imagined snacks.

Again, what kind of ‘Tourism’ are we selling to the world if our airport snacks cannot spell and say and communicate ‘Uganda’? Sausage rolls and meat pies? We sometimes appear to be in need of intellectual support to deal with some of these matters.

That day, walking around the hall with my plugs in hand flabbergasted me when I failed to find a functional socket across the floor. It was strange – especially in 2016. I took the issue up with people right up to somebody educated and was told the sockets had been removed because “people were charging mobile phones here” and it was a security concern.

I was flummoxed because in this information age the availability of sockets for electricity to power gadgets that get you online is sometimes more valuable than the availability of food (even food as bad as the one in the Cafe’s there).

What kind of terrorists are we dealing with that can walk in with their mobile phones and chargers and power banks but would be deterred by the lack of sockets?

It was angering, but then eventually I got to the more difficult aspect of travel through the airport – the final gate of the departure lounge. For some reason, after going through all the belt dropping and shoe removals, at Entebbe you enter into a mini-sauna without air conditioning or sufficient air flow.

Why is that room is so hot and stuffy?

I have never had the opportunity to properly fight that battle, but here is a new one introduced in the last two weeks:

A furore has arisen over an annoying process change at the Entebbe International Airport Arrivals hall that is described in detail by many people, but best of all by Amos Wekesa, Tourism Prince.

His recount of the process makes one’s blood boil even more than the departure gate upstairs.

Early this week he returned and found he and his fellow passengers had to take their bags up and lift them onto the luggage scanner, then lift them off again after going through the security check point. The queue is very, very, very long because everybody has to take each and every one of their bags through this process. Amos was miffed this week to see elderly ladies, tourists visiting Uganda, struggling to lug her bags up and down.

He jumped in and offered to help her and a number of others, and during the process got thanked profusely by one of the Section Managers, who was tired of being abused by angry travelers.

To his credit, this manager told Amos that one of the measures they had decided to take was to stop any government official from trying to skip to the front of the queue claiming that they were “VIPs”.

“These travelers suffering here are paying money to come to Uganda to enjoy themselves, and they are being made to line up and carry suitcases after flying long hours. Then some government people who are using our money to travel try to jump the queue?!” the fellow said, livid.

I applauded.

And I also regretted not having been there to suggest that we could do small things in that uncomfortable hall to ease the pain that travelers are facing as they enter into Uganda. For instance, how about distributing some free bottles of water or banana juice? Or installing some nice fans to keep the air cool? Or playing some nice Ugandan music in the background to keep the soul calm?

Surely there are very many things we could have running in that space to keep tempers calm and the spirits uplifted as people come into the country?

I certainly don’t know everything but I know first hand how difficult running a public institution can be. Nevertheless, my sympathies are limited over the lack of these small actions and over exaggeration of others (such as the need to search every corner of every bag) that rub everyone the wrong way.

these kids are unfor-ghetto-ble! the triplets ghetto kids from uganda raised our flag high while we slept…


Unforgettable

THE Ghetto is normally defined as “a part of a city, especially a slum, occupied by (a) minority group(s).”

The people who live in the Ghetto are normally downtrodden, poor, vulnerable and disadvantaged.

In the days when we started switching things round, turning paradigms on their heads, and rebellions started being considered heroic, the ghetto became the ashes from which the Phoenix rose.

It was the pile of waste from which arose the dazzling bird flying in the distant skies into the brilliant sunshine.

You’ve probably guessed what’s causing my gushiness right now. It’s those fantastic Triplets Ghetto Kids and what they have done for you, Uganda, for the last so many years.

Most probably like you, I first noticed them because of Eddie Kenzo’s ‘Sitya Loss’ – which I saw on stage being inappropriately presented at a ceremony, but fell for in a big way and joined about 30million other viewers who have watched them dance it on YouTube.

Eventually, that song garnered the 30million YouTube hits purely because of the way those children were dancing.

Two years ago, at a friend’s wedding party deep in South Africa, I noticed that the DeeJay there elected to play ‘Sitya Loss’ at a high point of the evening and the locals knew the dance! I wasn’t taking the challenge sitting down and showed them where I was from, to their utter amazement as I didn’t look as agile as the children did in their video.

That night I mentioned to my wife how those little children and their jolly, frolic dance steps were ultimate Ambassadors for the Republic of Uganda, because just by twisting about like them I identified my true origins to the South Africans and was pleasantly accepted.

At the heart of my comment then was the memory of their main benefactor in Uganda trying hard to find a sponsor for the children’s group. A few years before that they had fallen on difficult times, living in conditions none of us would wish for our own children, and being hired out to entertain at pitiful rates.

I couldn’t help much, besides raving about them at Event Planning meetings so they could get hired more often.

Then some months ago my own children started talking about international musicians being in Kampala at two different occasions. The names were people I had never paid attention to, and when I investigated further I found them to be massive in music stature – but amongst the youth rather than my own age group.

The man behind that video explained later that he “stumbled upon” the Ghetto Kids on YouTube and just because of that he made the decision to come to Uganda to find them: http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/hip-hop/7752560/french-montana-uganda-unforgettable-video-twitter-interview.

This week, that big name, French Montana (who has 2.74MILLIION followers on Twitter and was worth US$8million by April this year), was bursting with pride on social media – international social media, not just a casual WhatsApp group here in Kampala – about having taken these Ghetto Kids to Hollywood to perform for the first time ever at the world famous BET Awards ceremony.

French Montana actually spent WEEKS in Kampala shooting the video for that song ‘Unforgettable’, which has so far logged about 120million plays on YouTube alone. The song featured Swae Lee (whose partnership with his brother has a net worth of US$6million and on his own has 314,000 Twitter followers).

Did any promoter of Uganda make use of him or acknowledge him while he was here? Was he offered any freebies in national parks or eating Rolexes or touring cultural sites or hitting nightclubs or drinking Coconut Waragi? Somebody, share photographs, please? Did we go out of our way to get them to spend a bit of their millions on this economy?

The Ghetto Kids’ performance with French Montana and Swae Lee at the BET Awards was unquestionably the highlight of the night! Every Twitter feed on the internet lit up with bright, enthusiastic, teary, adoring, loving, exciting comments about the Ghetto Kids. This isn’t the first time they have performed in the United States, mind you, and one of their past performances where they are dressed in the Uganda flag is approaching 1million YouTube views from less than a year ago. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7Gd0ekTTyQ).

And, a short while later, an equally ecstatic French Montana took up his phone and Re-Tweeted – in the middle of the world’s biggest music event – most every tweet about the Ghetto Kids. He paid to take them there – using his own money to promote Uganda, on top of using his 120million view video (except for the last seconds of it).

People like DJ Khaled took photo opportunities with the Ghetto Kids. This guy, who is worth US$20million and has 3.42MILLION Twitter followers, stopped his life to take a photograph with the Ghetto Kids. In that photograph, and almost significant, was Chance The Rapper (who has 4.49MILLION Twitter followers), a highly popular Hip Hop start and BET nominee this year – also squeezing into the photograph.

DJ Khaled Ghetto Kids

And now we are hearing reports that DJ Khaled PAID US$10,000 to take that photograph with the Ghetto Kids! #Dammit! Why do we sleep so much and laud the WRONG people in this country?!

DJ Khaled is known as the KING of snapchat – a more popularly used social media platform than Twitter, and gets more than two million (2,000,000) views PER SNAP/STORY he posts!

When the Media Centre lauded the Ghetto Kids on Twitter this week and used #UgandaTourism, I couldn’t help asking how much “we” are promoting these kids.

See, I wasn’t just talking about the government and the Uganda Tourism Board, because how many times have I personally hired them to do an event?

Of course the uppercut aimed at the Tourism marketing people will not end here. A promoter of Uganda, on realizing how many YouTube hits those Ghetto Kids have collected over the years, would have snapped them up long ago!

After visiting Uganda and falling in love with the Pearl of Africa, this French Montana launched a campaign that gave US$100,000 to the Mama Hope Initiative, and Ssuubi Health Centre in Budondo, Uganda. More than that, he rallied various other global celebrity musicians to get involved and they did so. One of them, The Weeknd, donated his own US$100,000 to the Suubi Health Centre.

Among the other celebrities who have joined in on the #UnforgettableDanceChallenge and now know where Uganda is because of the Triplets Ghetto Kids are Travis Scott, Drake, Juelz Santana, Chris Brown and P. Diddy.

French Montana as an individual is so amazing that the stories being told about him and his time in Uganda sound like fantasy. One tale has it that he bought dinner after one of the video shoots for about 500 people who had shown up to participate and watch the filming. Most celebrities of his stature DEMAND that they are feted, rather than spend their own money on the people around them!

Actually the whole country should stop and think. If we had given those children the equivalent of what one “big person” in politics gets when they travel abroad…

….how much more these Triplets Ghetto Kids from Uganda would be ‘Unforgettable’! May God bless them abundantly, and wake the rest of us up out of our annoying ignorance!

thanking one eva for representing Uganda so well in China – and calling on all Ugandans to wear that flag well


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The Selfie with one Yang in Beijing 

I APPLAUD a young Ugandan lady called Eva, whose second name I do not know and whose face I have never seen. All I know is that she is female, a Ugandan, and once lived in Beijing while studying something.

She now lives and works in Uganda at a location I will not reveal because I am not absolutely certain of it and have not secured her permission to do so – because I do not have her contact details.

Because she was a good Ugandan during her time in China, she saved me quite some difficulty last week by way of happenstance.

I normally go about on my travels wearing t-shirts boldly emblazoned with the Uganda flag for a number of reasons; top on the list is that this gives me an opportunity to start up a conversation about Uganda in which I get to stress the many good bits of my country.

It never fails, and during five days of travel last week I enjoyed many opportunities ranging from the hilarious to the deeply earnest.

There was the morning I was walking out of the breakfast room and a New Zealander pointed at me and shouted, “Hey! Uganda!”

He had me in a tight embrace before I could overcome my alarm, and standing together arm over shoulder he explained his excitement at seeing my tshirt with the Uganda flag right across the front.

“I am the Honorary Consul of Uganda to New Zealand!”

The odds were not high. He doesn’t spend all his time in Beijing so the opportunity to discuss Uganda with a Ugandan on a random morning in a country that was not New Zealand could not be allowed to go by.

Basil J. Morrison had many good things to say, of course, and asked about a few of his friends back home. Later in the day, atop the Great Wall of China, I bumped into Basil J. Morrison again – and with the same excitement as at breakfast, he spotted me easily in the crowd because of that t-shirt and his affinity for the Ugandan flag.

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The Selfie with Basil J. Morrison

The one involving Eva, however, was the most surprisingly pleasant.

On our way back out of the country we got a one-hour window between official events to swing by a shopping plaza. Just one hour, mind, and nothing more – including the time it took to disembark, get a meal, dislodge from the group and fight off the eager shop attendants all saying, “I give-o you good price-o, my brother! Come-o here!” The Chinese people seeking to give me merchandise in exchange for currency were ready to have me as their sibling, such is the pull of commerce in Beijing.

In the melee, one of my colleagues went off with my phone power bank. My phone being down to 2% meant I would be marooned if plans changed and nobody could reach me by phone to re-direct me to a different rendezvous point – a contingency we had agreed had to be avoided at all costs, and against which we had prepared by securing Chinese-registered SIMs.

It was on the top floor of the Plaza, at the food court, that I came across Eva’s name. Opting to pick up a quick meal to walk and eat with back to the rendezvous, I went to the food court and placed an order with the fellow there.

After taking my order, he pointed at the flag on my t-shirt and said quite confidently: “Uganda!”

I was surprised.

Some minutes before that another fellow had pointed at the very same flag and said, “Ethiopia?” I shook my head and told him, “No. Try again?”

And he went, “Ummmm…” so I said, “Read this!” pointing at the word under the flag that said ‘UGANDA’.

“Ghana?” he went, till I made him actually read it properly (vehemence without violence) and then found myself in a farcical conversation in which a Chinese man claimed all Africans looked the same and a Ugandan man informed him that all Asians looked the same, and so on and so forth till he succumbed.

Back to the food court, I later learnt the young man who so clearly identified the flag was called Yang and is from Mongolia. When I asked how he knew the Ugandan flag so well he said, “I have friend in Uganda.”

Impressed but short on time, I sent him off to complete my food purchase and picked up the conversation when he returned. His friend was Eva – and he proved it by showing me his WhatsApp conversation with her (‘Eva@Uganda’). The conversation was recent (I did NOT read the messages though!).

Sensing a window of opportunity, I asked him if he could charge my phone and he very readily said, “Yes! iPhone? I have.”

When the food arrived, I stuck around a little bit to give the phone time to charge up a bit, and eventually he joined me clearly seeking more Ugandan contact.

I asked him if Eva had been his girlfriend and he unabashedly said she wasn’t, just a good friend. They met when she was in Beijing and she was kind, helpful and generally a good friend.

“Ugandans are good people,” Yang said, and sat down with me for part of my meal, disrupting my novel-reading window somewhat and even learning a new english word (“ludicrous”) out of the first page of my Bill Bryson.

The 20% battery charge Yang gave me, because of the kindness of Eva’s gentle Ugandan heart in Beijing, went a long way in ensuring the rest of my journey went according to plan. Eva’s being a good Ugandan also made me proud to be a Ugandan wearing the Ugandan flag out in public thousands of miles away from home, and for that, I applaud her and all people like her!

See, in the early days of this t-shirt policy the first response I received was, “Idi Amin!” proclaimed proudly by people emulating half-wits recovering from a decade-long coma and doing a form of cognitive stimulation test where they had to respond to pictures. Later, the responses always followed a political path that somehow still led back to Idi Amin.

Last week, thanks to people like Eva and other good Ugandans out there, I spent five days going through Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, and in Beijing, China, and back, and not once was Idi Amin mentioned.

Even the people who couldn’t sustain a conversation in English had a way about it – like the fellow who pointed and proclaimed, “Uganda!” and responded to my, “Yeah! Beautiful country. Have you visited?” with “Kampala.”

“Er…so have you visited?” I asked, hoping this was a lead into a conversation as the lift doors opened.

It wasn’t. He pointed at himself, in his indeterminate but well-stitched suit and tie, and said, “Algeria!”

I smiled widely, knowing he didn’t have the English for this, and said, “Yeah, but we have better climate, better hospitality, and much better t-shirts! Come and visit Uganda!”

I hope when the Algerian googles the phrases he finds the last bit stands out: “Come and visit Uganda!”

Thank you, Eva!

go and learn some more cricket, Ugandans


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UGANDA! This might be coming to your attention a bit late, but you have a whole month to go, so don’t say nobody mentioned it. YOU are hosting the ICC World Cricket League Division 3 Tournament right here in Kampala NEXT MONTH for TEN DAYS.

The ICC is the International Cricket Council and is the world’s governing body of the game or sport called Cricket.

According to www.topendsports.com Cricket is the world’s number two (2) sport, with an estimated 2.5billion fans mostly in Asia, Australia and the UK (and Uganda!), after soccer with an estimated 3.5billion fans in Europe, Africa, Asia and America. The site www.mostpopularsports.net lists Cricket as the world’s number three (3) sport. They calculate this by analysing website visitor traffic using the Alexa traffic ranks of over 300 top sports websites.

www.mostpopularsports.net figures that Cricket is the most popular sport in five (5) countries with a combined population of more than 1.4billion people, and one of the top three (3) in ten countries with a combined population of 3.6billion people.

So, nationally, our hosting the ICC World Cricket League Division 3 Tournament means we are likely to be the focus of attention for nearly half the population of the entire world for TEN RUNNING DAYS.

The economists should have some formula that works out, for instance, what we stand to benefit if just 1% of those 3.6billion people choose to visit Uganda as tourists. That would be 36million tourists.

The Ministry of Tourism figures from 2015 estimate that a tourist injects about US$132 dollars into the country every day on a six-day visit. That means that we could earn US$4.75billion A DAY from those tourists if they all came in at once – though it would be a tight fit within the national creases.

But at least you see the picture?

If we used this opportunity right and got those 36million tourists (1% of people watching the Tournament) to visit over a period of a year, then Uganda would earn US$1.8billion in visa fees alone at US$50 per visa. Add to that the money paid in by the airlines bringing them, the 36million taxi rides, 36 million Rolexes and empoombo sold…

Like that, like that.

So we have many opportunities right here, right now.

Mind you, we had these same opportunities right here in Kampala back in 2014 when Uganda was just about to host the same Tournament of that year.

But, sadly, our right to host got cancelled at the last minute and the tournament was moved to Malaysia. See, in September of 2014, just a month before the Tournament was set to launch, the Police here announced that they had “seized explosives from a suspected Islamist militant cell”.

We were out for a duck.

Commendable work at securing the nation, of course, and we applauded. The BBC reported, at that time back then in 2014 (I have to stress this in case someone makes a mistake) that those al-Shabaab chaps were planning an attack. This was after a US Embassy warning that there were likely to be revenge attacks after an air strike in Somalia that killed al-Shabaab boss, Ahmed Abdi Godane.

That opportunity went up in smoke – which was better than buildings and people doing so, of course, so nobody is really complaining about the Police doing its work.

But this time round we need to grip our bats tightly and swing the opportunity for a century of national benefits that will stop us complaining about how tight the economy is.

The number of people coming in for the Tournament itself is not massive in a way that will constitute the end-all of this opportunity. There are only 112 team players coming in and possibly not as many officials. I would be pleasantly surprised if more than ten times that number came in to watch the games live at the venues.

But those who will be tuning in on TV and reading the newspapers? Millions upon millions. There are cricket-crazy countries like India and Pakistan where the sport is almost a religion; those two countries alone account for a fifth of the world’s population and they WILL tune in to watch.

If we focus our tourism and investment promotion efforts on just those two countries for the next one month and during the tournament then our economic umpires will be shouting “Howzat?!” all the way to the bank.

And now, if you don’t know what that word means, start off by reading up on your cricket terms and terminologies – because 3.6billion people worldwide will be more likely to find your website or order for your product if you speak their language.

The ICC has bowled well; it’s up to us to bat our way right down the order and collect all runs and extras along the way. This is not the time for dead balls or maidens, people! It is time for Cricket!

a little bit more about that colonial racism and Kampala…just a little bit


Benard Acema* whipped up quite the storm this week with his post The Racism Behind Kampala; most of the responses being the “What? How Could I Not Have Seen This Before?!” kind that satisfied the mind of a person who yearns for social change out of consciousness.

Some of the responses, though, ranged from those stating there could NOT have been racism in Uganda to others who claimed to have read all six thousand (6,000) words and taken away just one sentence in summary.

My favourite response came from Frank Morris Matovu, an Architect whose reaction was to calmly upload onto his Facebook wall more than ninety (90) pages of a 1955 book titled, ‘Town Planning In Uganda; A Brief Description Of The Efforts Made By Government To Control Development Of Urban Areas From 1915 to 1955‘, by Henry Kendall OBE, F.R.I.B.A., M.T.P.I, Director of Town Planning, Uganda.

Benard Acema’s intellectual and literary effort has proved̀ invaluable in many respects, including possibly causing a change to our education curriculum if the noises made by some of the people in charge are anything to go by.

Benard Acema tells me he had not read Kendall’s book by the time he wrote his thesis.

define-thesis

Those with literal minds and short fuses should go with the first dictionary definition of the word above, when dealing with Benard Acema’s work. The young man did what few others essay (no pun), linking his observations to thought and realisation and a little bit of research and then leading the rest of us to discovery.

Benard Acema’s thesis will be further dissected, proven or contested by various others in the worlds of social media, academia and even public administration, all of which will exclude me for now.

I only came here to share a few pages from Kendall’s book to aid your reading of Benard Acema, and to tell you to get a soft copy of the same directly from Frank Matovu. (He does not sell the book, but to aid his work compiling and storing such works, please feel free to make a modest contribution by way of Mobile Money to his number – 0758 483 934.)

But before you read the book, don’t be afraid of words like racism, colonialism and imperialism. Acknowledge the fact that they were a reality back then when the colonialists first took over Uganda. Nothing about that should be surprising. What we need to do, as many of the commenters said, is get rid of those ‘isms’ and their negative impacts where they may exist which includes dealing with both the big and the small items. 
define-racism

define-colonialism define-imperialism

Do all three ‘isms’ still exist in Kampala, or Uganda? Benard Acema had valid points to make in that regard, that led to all that debate.

And now, on to the historical facts about settlement in Kampala (and other urban centres), and the question of racism or otherwise:

the-development-of-kampala

Of course there was land reserved for Africans and other land for non-Africans.

the-development-of-kampala-kibuga

the-development-of-kampala-ii

🙂

the-development-of-kampala-iii

Read that one again, please?

And then take these:

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the-development-of-kampala-v

the-development-of-kampala-vi

Mind you, the mere mention of race might not necessarily prove that there was racism afoot, but again that was the reality of those times, as stated later on in the book from the actual Minutes of a meeting of the Central Town Planning Board:

the-principal-of-racial-segregation racial-segregation-again

Naguru, for instance, was reserved for Africans:

the-development-of-kampala-vii

And even if race was not the only consideration there was a way, for a while, of working the formulae out that kept zones racially distinct using economics – since certain professions or trades seemed to be restricted (I said ‘for a while’) to particular races. The restriction of construction styles in some residential areas meant that if you couldn’t afford to build a certain type of house you couldn’t live in a certain neighbourhood…

the-development-of-kampala-viii This planning was neither restricted to Kampala alone, nor Uganda as a country.

In Jinja:

jinja-residential-areas

45

And, again, economic reasons were part of the equation:

50

The same applied elsewhere, in many different ways, but as thousands of Ugandans have declared this week: It WASN’T OBVIOUS!

Which is why I still applaud for Benard Acema, because he tells me the thought occurred to him and kept niggling till he had put his thoughts down in writing – and they appear to be quite accurate. THIS is the stuff that academic study and problem solving is made of. The man clearly did not waste his education, and my hope is that he will continue with it at the same pace while the rest of us play catch up or raise younger children to be like him.

In the time being, all history, social studies and political science teachers, please make some small changes to your teaching texts?

*Benard Acema – Note that I use his name in full so as to ensure it is never forgotten, such that we all strive to educate our children to these heights so they are known for good work such as this.